Hundreds of students, faculty and community members stood in solidarity on Thursday in support of black students at the University of Missouri.
“Now we are here,” said organizer Ryan Walker-Hartshorn ’17. “This is our time, this is our moment, and this is our movement. Today symbolizes a small contribution to the fight for all black lives and for all marginalized people. We all know that the system was built to bury us, but they didn’t know that we were the seeds.”
The message reverberated from her megaphone in White Plaza, and supporters posed for a photograph as part of the event.
Stanford is just one of dozens of universities across the nation that is voicing its support for Missouri following long-standing racial turmoil that has escalated over the course of the past month.
The wave of racially charged incidents have resulted in protests at the University of Missouri, a hunger strike by a graduate student, a boycott by Missouri football players and the resignation of Missouri President Tim Wolfe. Tensions were amplified Tuesday when students took to the anonymous social networking app Yik Yak to post death threats against black students.
Now social media has become a tool for college students around the nation to support the black student community and to demonstrate that they will not tolerate the hatred. Stanford students logging onto Facebook have probably discovered a timeline flooded with statuses reading, “To the students of color at Mizzou, we, student allies at Stanford, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten your sense of safety, we are watching. #ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarityWithMizzou.”
Walker-Hartshorn wanted to do more than post a status to voice her support, so she created a Facebook Event for students to come out from behind the veil of social media and show their support in person in White Plaza. From freshmen to Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82, participants varied diversely in age but all shared a similar agenda: to show solidarity.
After Walker-Hartshorn’s speech, loudspeakers blasted Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” When asked about the choice in music, Walker-Hartshorn explained that Lamar’s music speaks to the struggle that all black people experience.
“It’s difficult and probably always will be,” she said. “But with so many people coming out to support it gives black people everywhere a sense that we’re gonna be alright.”
After the musical interlude, Walker-Hartshorn asked that anyone who identified as black move to the front of the photograph.
“It was an event for solidarity, but we wanted to make sure that people at Mizzou knew that as a black community specifically, we are here for them,” Walker-Hartshorn said.
Among the members of the black community who showed their support at the event was John-Lancaster Finley ’16, ASSU president.
“Showing support for the students at the University of Missouri is specifically important to me. I am very close with the student body presidents at Mizzou, so we were getting live updates as all of this was unfolding,” Finley said. “We were hearing from the [Missouri] presidents that students were under attack while we were watching headlines on CNN like, ‘Is free speech under attack at Mizzou? Are journalists under attack at Mizzou?’ Unless students are rolling out and showing solidarity, it’s not going to get covered.”
Contact Sophie Hamilton at sophieh ‘at’ stanford.edu.